Fringe 2.9: "Snakehead"

This is one of those episodes that felt like a completely self-contained effort, but could easily become tied into the overall season arc, depending on which direction the writers choose to take. It all comes down to the relevance of Walter’s subplot: was it just a bit of character shading to provide a “B” plot for the episode, or was seeding of an important plot point?

The “monster of the week” was interesting enough, but as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, it just didn’t seem to hold any pertinence beyond the point of having a strange and unusual creature on screen. The creature was a pure plot device. Compare this to most of the creatures featured on “Supernatural”, where some aspect of the “monster of the week” has some pertinence to a specific character aspect or relationship concern for the Brothers Winchester.

In this case, it was the origin of the creature that made a difference. Because it was being smuggled into the country by an Asian drug cartel, there was a bit of danger for Walter and Peter, and there was a personal attack on Astrid. Walter felt responsible for Astrid’s injuries, because if he hadn’t wanted to regain a sense of independence, Astrid wouldn’t have been sent to keep an eye on him.

I like the fact that Walter failed miserably in his attempt to work on his own. Walter works as a character because he is broken, and because his arrogance and mental damage keeps him from recognizing just how broken he is. He wants to be less of a burden, but it’s hard for him to retain perspective of his own capabilities (or lack thereof). I’m reminded of real-world dementia sufferers, right down to the breakdown that occurs when a critical piece of information is just out of grasp, even when it is written down on a piece of paper within reach.

It’s very interesting, then, that Walter chooses to give Peter a means of tracking him. It seems like a typical Walter solution to a problem. But what if this entire incident was meant to bring Walter to this point, so that Peter would have a means of locating Walter in some future plot twist? Or more to the point of the series mythology, what would it mean if the transponder was suddenly out of range?

In other words, I think the important part of the episode is the final scene. It’s the proverbial gun on the mantle. Peter is going to need to locate Walter at some critical juncture, and the existence of that tracking device is going to factor into it. At least, it needs to factor into the story at some point, or this episode loses much of its meaning in the context of the series.

After all, very little else in this episode had any solid connection to the rest of the “Fringe” tapestry. One might indirectly connect Olivia’s niece to her interest in saving the little girl in this episode, but it’s a thin thread. We learned a bit more about Peter’s hidden talents, but at this point in the series, we expect him to pull some cache of knowledge out of the blue.

Like I said in previous reviews this season, the writers raised the stakes when they ramped up the mythology towards the end of the first season. Since they’ve returned, there’s been a distinct lack of balance. This episode may fit into the big picture in the long run, but in many ways, it was yet another stand-alone episode.


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